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  • Date publishedWednesday, September 25, 2013

Mission Hill - 2013 Winery of the Year - WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada Celebration

Left to right: Jessica Bryans (Joey Restaurants), Bryan McCaw (WineAlign), David Lawrason (WineAlign), Ingo Grady (Mission Hill), Steve Thurlow (WineAlign)
On , I had the pleasure of attending an invite-only celebration at Joey Eaton Centre to honour Mission Hill Family Estate's Winery of the Year Award at the inaugural WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada competition.

This award used to be part of the Canadian Wine Awards, which was run by WineAccess Magazine, until the magazine was abruptly shut down earlier this year. WineAccess was established in the 1990s by David Lawrason. Among other responsibilities, David is now VP of Wine at WineAlign, and was the co-chief judge of these awards.

Mission Hill submitted 16 wines at this competition and came away with 12 medals, including Platinum medals for their Compendium and Riesling Reserve. The B.C. winery also received Gold medals for their Chardonnay Reserve, Perpetua and Reserve Riesling Icewine.

On hand was Ingo Grady, Mission Hill's Director of Wine Education, to accept the awards. I spoke briefly with Ingo, who was quite gracious, humble, and a pleasure to talk to. You can tell he has a passion for wine. I can't wait to visit Mission Hill!

To celebrate, it was only fitting to serve Mission Hill's top 5 medal winning wines on this night. It was a treat to taste (and enjoy) each and every one of these wines, which were exquisitely paired with small bites that were served throughout the night. It's a shame that only one of these wines is readily available at the LCBO.

Here are my tasting notes from the evening:

2011 Mission Hill Riesling Reserve - NWAC13 Platinum Medal Winner
MISSION HILL RIESLING RESERVE 2011 - VQA Okanagan Valley (#) (D) - $20.00
This white wine has crisp petrol, honey, and lime aromas of medium intensity, with hints of minerality. It's off-dry with a palate consisting of peach, citrus and tropical fruits. Balanced throughout with a fine seam of acidity that makes it very food-friendly. Lengthy finish. Nice! Paired beautifully with the Ahi Tuna and Tempura Prawn Sushi Cones that were stuffed with Tobiko, Spicy Aioli, Pickled Ginger, Cucumber, Daikon and Avocado. Score: 91 pts

2011 Mission Hill Chardonnay Reserve - NWAC13 Gold Medal Winner
MISSION HILL CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2011 - VQA Okanagan Valley (#545004) (XD) - $19.95
Vintages Essentials product and always available, this white wine was partially fermented in American oak and has crisp tropical fruit and citrus aromas of medium intensity from the glass. Medium-bodied with lively acidity. Palate is fruit-forward and brings poached pear and tropical fruits, with light hints of butter and oak. Long, clean, lemony finish. Missed the pairing with the Butter Poached Prawn with Mango Salsa (that looked very tasty!) Score: 89 pts

2010 Mission Hill Perpetua - NWAC13 Gold Medal Winner
MISSION HILL PERPETUA 2010 - Osoyoos Vineyard Estate, VQA Okanagan Valley (#28894) (XD) - $34.99
Available through the agent Mark Anthony. Made using 3 different Chardonnay clones, and uses French oak for fermentation and ageing. Medium-intensity and subtle aromas of butterscotch and oak. Slightly creamy texture on the medium-full body with restrained notes of oak, plus some butter and apple flavours. Spicy mid-palate lingers through the very long finish. It paired nicely with Triple Cream Brie de Bourgogne and Deer Hunter Gouda. Score: 90 pts

2009 Mission Hill Compendium - NWAC13 Platinum Medal Winner
MISSION HILL COMPENDIUM 2009 - VQA Okanagan Valley (#) (XD) - $50.00
Available via agent. Bordeaux blend of 40% Cab Sauv, 35% Merlot, 20% Cab Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Medium-high intensity aromas of herbal, pepper, oak, dark fruits and sour cherry. Palate is medium-full bodied with flavours of black currant, black fruit, cedar, and vanillan. Subtle spice on the mid-palate continues on the very long, smooth, and silky finish. This red wine has food-friendly acidity and velvety tannins. Lovely! Score: 91 pts

2011 Mission Hill Reserve Riesling Icewine - NWAC13 Gold Medal Winner
MISSION HILL RESERVE RIESLING ICEWINE 2011 - VQA Okanagan Valley (#240127) (S) (375 mL) - $59.99
Available via agent. Gorgeous peach, apricot and honey aromas. Medium-full bodied with very nice aroma replays and subtle spice. Sweet, but not cloying because of crisp acidity. It's balanced throughout and has a medium-long finish. Paired very nicely with an Apple Tart with Toasted Almonds and Caramel. It also went extremely well with a special dip (Apricot Ginger?) that Ingo brought from British Columbia. Score: 92 pts

NWAC13 Winery of the Year - Mission Hill Family Estate

Joey Eaton CentreJoey Eaton Centre

Ingo Grady Accepts Awards from David LawrasonMaking of Ahi Tuna and Tempura Prawn Sushi Cones

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  • Date publishedMonday, September 23, 2013

Sept. 28 Wine Picks: Tuscany + Chile + Thanksgiving

LCBO Wine Picks from September 28, 2013 Vintages Magazine
The upcoming LCBO Vintages release will be on shelves this . The main feature in this release focuses on premium-quality wines from Tuscany, which range in price from $15.95 to $48.95. In all, there are 16 wines featured, and 3 made my list of wine picks below. It just so happens that all three are north of $20.

The Frassinello is an IGT wine that is made using 50% Sangioveto (essentially a localized clone of Sangiovese), 25% Cab Sauv, and 25% Merlot. The Carpineto is also an IGT wine and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The San Felice is made using the more traditional Tuscan grape - Sangiovese.

Five wines from Chile are in secondary feature, which focuses on premium wines from local pioneers and international influencers. I was fortunate enough to meet the CEO of Lapostolle last June (international influencer) and had the opportunity to taste their Apalta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which is made using organic grapes. I am definitely pleased that this wine is among my top picks from this release. Not part of the Chilean feature, but in my list below is a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. At $13.95, the Matetic Corralillo is a steal and a must buy! I'm a big fan of Chilean Savvy!

This issue also contains the annual Thanksgiving feature which highlights 11 wines suitable for your Thanksgiving get-together. The Tawse Riesling, the Reichsgraf Riesling Kabinett, and the Château des Charmes Vidal Icewine are all worthy buys for your holiday gathering.

From the rest of the release, there are a couple of Australian reds worth your attention. The Sister's Run is a blend of 85% Grenache, 10% Shiraz, 5% Mataro, while the D'Arenberg D'Arry's Original is 53% Grenache and 47% Syrah. There are also 2 outstanding reds that I will likely be adding to my collection: The Lacroix-Vanel from Midi is mostly Grenache, and the rest likely Syrah, while the Villacreces from Spain is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Cab Sauv.

G.E. Massenez Vieux Calvados Apply Brandy
Normally, I stay away from the Spirits section of the Vintages release, but I had to make an exception for the G.E. Massenez Vieux Calvados (#271726, $64.95), which is an apple brandy that actually contains an apple inside the bottle! It's quite unique and I'm sure a treat to taste.

That's it for this week. Enjoy!

Red Wine:
  • SISTER’S RUN COW’S CORNER GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MATARO 2011 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#346510) (XD) - $15.95
  • TESSELLAE VIEILLES VIGNES CARIGNAN 2011 - IGP Côtes Catalanes, Southwest, France (#343509) (XD) - $16.95
  • D’ARENBERG D’ARRY’S ORIGINAL SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2010 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#942904) (D) - $19.95
  • LACROIX-VANEL FINE AMOR PÉZENAS 2008 - AC Coteaux du Languedoc, Midi, France (#343418) (XD) - $19.95
  • FINCA VILLACRECES PRUNO 2011 - DO Ribera del Duero, Spain (#312140) (XD) - $19.95
  • LAPOSTOLLE CUVÉE ALEXANDRE APALTA VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 - Colchagua Valley, Chile (#947929) (XD) - $24.95  reviewed here
  • SAN FELICE IL GRIGIO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#716266) (XD) - $26.95
  • ROCCA DI FRASSINELLO LE SUGHERE DI FRASSINELLO 2010 - IGT Maremma Toscana, Italy (#025700) (XD) - $29.95
  • CARPINETO FARNITO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#996553) (XD) - $29.95

White Wine:
  • MATETIC CORRALILLO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 - San Antonio Valley, Chile (#347740) (XD) - $13.95
  • TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#089029) (M) - $17.95
  • INNISKILLIN RESERVE PINOT GRIS 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#177766) (D) - $19.95
  • HENRY OF PELHAM BARREL FERMENTED ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#268342) (XD) - $19.95
  • REICHSGRAF VON KESSELSTATT SCHARZHOFBERGER RIESLING KABINETT 2008 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#282343) (M) - $20.95
  • NIKOLAIHOF HEFEABZUG GRÜNER VELTLINER 2010 - Qualitätswein, Austria (#328948) (XD) - $24.95

Dessert Wine:
  • CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES VIDAL ICEWINE 2009 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#565861) (S) (200 mL) - $25.95
  • PUKLUS PINCÉSZET TOKAJI YELLOW MUSCAT 2012 - Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary (#046508) (M) - $15.95

Sparkling Wine:
  • AIMERY GRAND CUVÉE 1531 CRÉMANT DE LIMOUX - AC Crémant de Limoux, Southwest, France (#350371) (D) - $19.95

The rest of the wines from this release can be found here.

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  • Date publishedThursday, September 19, 2013

iYellow Summer Wine Jam - Review

iYellow Summer Wine Jam
On , I attended iYellow Wine Club's Summer Wine Jam, which has held at Airship 37 near The Distillery District. The venue allowed for both indoor and outdoor imbibing, which was perfect for this fine summer night. I arrived there just after 7 p.m. and the place was filling up across the 2 rooms and the outdoor area quite nicely.

Over 70 wines from around the world were available for tasting, spread out over 15 "wine stations". There was quite a variety of wines to choose from, including a Port wine, and a half-size bottle of Australian red wine.

The food was catered by Berkeley Events, there were three food stations located throughout the 2 rooms, featuring 5-6 food items in all. Mid-way through I took a break from wine and decided to fill my stomach with some eats. I had 2 food tickets (included with my admission), so I had the fish and chips, followed by a veggie poutine. Both items seemed to be in popular demand, as I had to wait for a fresh batch of both dishes to arrive. Extra food items were $5 a pop, but I was satisfied at this point and continued to taste more wine.

Music was provided by the usual iYellow event DJ - Sam Fleming. Towards the end of the night, the vibe was definitely club-like, but without the dance floor. iYellow events are typically fun and casual, unlike the trade tasting events that I attend, which are generally quite serious and more business-like.

Most of the wines are quite readily available at the LCBO, so this was a great opportunity to taste wines without having to buy it first and be disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few Vintages wines as well. Overall, there were no mind-blowing wines, but there were a few that stood out for me (see below) and I would be happy to add these to my collection or serve at gatherings.

YALUMBA THE Y SERIES VIOGNIER 2012 - South Australia (#624502) (XD) - $16.95
Was among my picks from the recent August 17 Vintages release. Medium-high intensity aromas of spring flowers, ginger and white pepper. Medium-bodied palate with more lovely floral notes, joined by tropical fruits. Oily texture and lengthy finish. Quite nice and my favourite of the evening! Score: 88+ pts.

Giesen Wines at iYellow Summer Wine Jam

GIESEN ESTATE RIESLING 2012 - Marlborough, New Zealand (#277673) (MS) - $15.95
Copious amounts of petrol and minerals waft from the glass, along with hints of honey. Medium-sweet on the palate, but balanced nicely with refreshing acidity. Good aromas replays and a medium-long finish. LCBO General List product and always available. Score: 88 pts

GIESEN THE BROTHERS LAND SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 - Marlborough, New Zealand (#308270) (XD) - $17.95
Medium intensity nose with delicate passion fruit, grass, grapefruit and nettle aromas. Medium-bodied with balanced aroma replays, plus some tropical fruit notes on the palate. Finish is bitter and slightly hot. Serve well-chilled. LCBO General List product and always available. Score: 88 pts

Fish and Chips Veggie Poutine

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  • Date publishedTuesday, September 17, 2013

Kingston Family Vineyards Tobiano Pinot Noir 2009 (Chile) - Wine Review

This red wine is from the March 16th Vintages release and was gifted to me. It was opened on the weekend, knowing that my afternoon guest would surely enjoy this - and he did! I've had mixed emotions with Pinot in the recent past, and this is the first Chilean Pinot I've tasted in a while (perhaps since last year's Wines of Chile event) and I was pleasantly delighted with this one. I believe the price has come down on this wine since I last checked, and there are a few bottles remaining, if you are inclined.

KINGSTON FAMILY VINEYARDS TOBIANO PINOT NOIR 2009 - Casablanca Valley, Chile (#313148) (D) - $19.75

Label for 2009 Kingston Family Vineyards Tobiano Pinot Noir from Casablanca Valley, Chile
Tasting Note:
Red berry and oak aromas from the cork. Medium-high intense aromas of earthiness, beetroot, strawberry, and hints of red fruit. Palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins and refreshing acidity. Quite easy drinking with nice aroma replays and a medium-length finish that is a touch spicy. In terms of palate, this is what I currently enjoy in Pinot. Chill slightly. This one is a crowd pleaser that has the stuffing to be served with lamb. Score: 87 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, September 9, 2013

Sept. 14 LCBO Wine Picks: Ontario Wines

The next Vintages release will be on LCBO shelves on . This edition is titled "Shine ON" and focuses on Ontario wines that shine brightly on the world stage. It appears to be somewhat of an annual event as last September there was a special release including strictly only Ontario wines.

This year, the celebration begins with over 130 restaurants across Ontario, from September 15 to October 12, offering local wines by-the-glass to pair with local food. Furthermore, the LCBO and Wine Country Ontario are jointly hosting public walk-around tastings at the beginning of October in both Toronto and Ottawa. And if that's not enough, there's also the annual Niagara Grape & Wine Festival that runs for 3 weekends this month. Of course, all of this stems from the fact that it's harvest season for grape growers here in Ontario and many new wines are released around this time of the year.

In this release, there are 23 Ontario wines featured, and 8 made my list of wine picks. When looking at white wines in Ontario, in general, you will find that Ontario makes Chardonnay and Riesling very well. In red wines, Ontario makes Cab Franc and Pinot Noir quite well. Among my picks, you will find 2 Rieslings (both medium in sweetness) and a Chardonnay from Niagara. You will also find a very delightful Prince Edward County Chardonnay from renowned producer Norm Hardie.

In reds, there is a Pinot Noir from Niagara, while Foreign Affair Winery brings us "The Conspiracy", which is made in a ripasso-style (Appassimento-method) of winemaking that is gaining in popularity within the region and consists of 85% Cab Sauv and 15% Cab Franc.

And finally, one cannot mention Ontario wine without including Icewine in the conversation. Ontario is known globally for its Icewine and is most often made using the Vidal grape, such as Reif Estates Winery's version in this release. On the other hand, Stratus' Red Icewine is a blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Syrah.

From the rest of the release, three French red wines are Aidie L'Origine (Tannat and Cab Franc blend) from Southwest region; the Estanilles L'Impertinent (30% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 15% Carignan, 15% Cinsault, and 20% Mourvèdre) from Midi; and the Vacqueyras (Grenache, Syrah, old vines Cinsault and Mourvèdre) from the fabulous 2010 Rhône region. From Spain, the Ónra Negre is a blend of Grenache, Merlot and Cab Sauv; the Lan Gran Reserva is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) and 10% Garnacha; and the JC Vizacarra is 100% Tempranillo.

Remember, if you plan on buying wines from this or any Vintages release, it's best-practice to purchase them the day they are released (Saturday), as many wines are only available in limited quantities, and extremely popular wines can sell out on the first day.

Enjoy my picks for this week, and I hope to see you in Niagara for the wine festival in a couple of weeks!

Red Wine:
  • AYDIE L’ORIGINE 2010 - AC Madiran, Southwest, France (#343566) (XD) - $15.95
  • ÓNRA NEGRE 2009 - DO Costers del Segre, Spain (#343079) (XD) - $16.95
  • THE FOREIGN AFFAIR THE CONSPIRACY 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#149237) (XD) - $19.95
  • CHÂTEAU DES ESTANILLES L’IMPERTINENT 2010 - AP Faugères, Midi, France (#344879) (XD) - $19.95
  • COYOTE’S RUN RED PAW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2011 - VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#079228) (XD) - $22.95
  • ALAIN JAUME & FILS GRANDE GARRIGUE VACQUEYRAS 2010 - AC, Rhône, France (#233916) (XD) - $24.95
  • LAN GRAN RESERVA 2005 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#928622) (XD) - $27.95
  • BODEGAS VIZCARRA JC VIZCARRA 2010 - DO Ribera del Duero, Spain (#214650) (XD) - $28.95
  • CORTE PAVONE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#237263) (XD) - $49.95

White Wine:
  • MIGUEL TORRES SANTA DIGNA RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 - Curicó Valley, Chile (#177444) (XD) - $13.95
  • FLAT ROCK RIESLING 2012 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#043281) (M) - $16.95
  • FEATHERSTONE BLACK SHEEP RIESLING 2012 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#080234) (M) - $16.95
  • CONCHA Y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CHARDONNAY 2012 - Limarí, Chile (#342857) (XD) - $19.95
  • BACHELDER NIAGARA CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#302083) (XD) - $29.95
  • NORMAN HARDIE UNFILTERED CHARDONNAY 2010 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#184432) (XD) - $35.00
  • DOMAINE BERNARD DEFAIX CÔTE DE LECHET RESERVE CHABLIS 1ER CRU 2010 - Cuvée Vieilles Vignes, AC, Burgundy, France (#017541) (XD) - $33.95
  • RAMEY SONOMA COAST CHARDONNAY 2010 - Sonoma Coast, California, USA (#288035) (XD) - $41.95

Sparkling Wine:
  • CHÂTEAU GAUDRELLE BRUT CRÉMANT DE LOIRE - AC, Loire, France (#339986) (D) - $19.95

Dessert Wine:
  • REIF VIDAL ICEWINE 2011 - VQA Niagara River, Ontario, Canada (#544791) (S) (200 mL) - $24.95
  • STRATUS RED ICEWINE 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#056689) (S) (200 mL) - $39.95

  • QUINTA DE VENTOZELO VINTAGE PORT 2003 - Not Filtered, DOC Douro, Portugal (#336354) (S) - $48.95

The rest of the wines from this release can be found here.

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  • Date publishedSaturday, September 7, 2013

Bodegas Valdemar Inspiración Valdemar 2005 (Rioja) - Wine Review

Purchased this red wine from a Vintages release back in May of 2010 and obviously no longer available for purchase. However, the 2008 came out in Vintages in last March and is still available in select Vintages stores.

BODEGAS VALDEMAR INSPIRACIÓN VALDEMAR 2005 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#166512) (XD) - $19.95

Label of 2005 Bodegas Valdemar Inspiración Valdemar from Rioja, Spain
Tasting Note:
Blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. Oak and baked prune aromas from the cork. Leather, earth, barnyard, prune and burnt dark fruit aromas in the glass. Full bodied with dark fruit, wood spice, and hints of prune and espresso on the palate. Big tannins are chalky. Very good acidity. Lengthy finish is spicy. Could be aged another 3-4 years. It's good, but was expecting more. Wouldn't hesitate to taste the 2008 or future vintages.

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  • Date publishedMonday, September 2, 2013

Loan Wines Unwooded Special Reserve Semillon 2004 (Barossa) - Wine Review

Purchased this organic white wine earlier this year from the April 27 release. At 9 years old, you would think this is well passed its prime, but it definitely is not! Hopefully you picked this up when I recommended it back in April, because it's no longer available.

LOAN WINES UNWOODED SPECIAL RESERVE SEMILLON 2004 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#301127) (D) - $15.95

Label for 2004 Loan Wines Unwooded Special Reserve Semillon from Barossa, Australia
Tasting Note:
Screw cap. Complex aromas of orange, tropical fruits, tea leaf, and beeswax. Medium-full bodied with an oily and very creamy texture. Palate is ever-so-slightly off-dry (slightly sweet) and has tropical fruits, tea and beeswax flavours. Smooth, lengthy finish that is slightly tart, bitter and extra dry. For a 2004, this is drinking very well, but drink this yummy white now. It's different. I enjoyed it!

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